Monday, February 13, 2012

I get asked this a lot.
What's it like living in America?
Well, different, obviously. After all, the cultures, traditions, food, even language, is different. You'd think that English is English; but there are so many nuances that I still get caught up over. So, here's my Malaysian-American English dictionary for you would-be travellers. Granted, these might not apply to everyone- but I thought I'd just list this smalltown Malaysian boy's learning experience over the years.
  • Biscuit- A biscuit is not a biscuit. To us, biscuits are those baked cookie-like pastries. You know, those Khong Guan products. Here, a biscuit is a fluffy, flaky bread. In Malaysia, heck, we'd just call it a bun and be done with it. To many of us, a cookie is a chewy version of a biscuit.
  • Tissue- To us, we'd be referring to Tissue paper. The kind you'd use to wipe your mouth. In fact, I grew up referring to even toilet paper as tissue. Here, typically refers to the soft paper you'd find in a gift basket. For the stuff to wipe your face, just ask for Kleenex.
  • Lipgloss- Air gets helluva dry here, and your lips get cracked. Everytime I ask my wife to borrow her lipgloss, she'd give me a stupid look. Apparently, only women use that here; instead, ask for Chapstick.
  • Boot- something you put on your feet to keep the snow out. If instead you're referring to the rear end of a car, it's called a trunk here.
  • Bonnet- likewise, if you're trying to show off your muscle car and offer to open the bonnet to show off the 4.5-liter V8, you might catch some laughes. Little girls wear bonnets. It's called a hood here.
  • Weed- to this smalltown boy, this means 'lalang'. Apparently this word has many meanings here. Including a plant which is a potent source of ahem, THC.
  • Sausage- this one still gets to me. To me a sausage is a hot dog; a hot dog is a sausage. End of story. However, here, hot dogs and sausages may look alike, but a sausage is a spiced length of meat, typically served at breakfast. A hot dog on the other hand, according to my dear wife, is junkfood. And to confuse me further, a sausage can also be a flat circular piece of meat, which to this Malaysian boy, just looks like a piece of burger patty. And to top it up, there are also bratwursts. Why can't they just call all these sausages???
  • Ramen- essentially, Maggi mee. Except Maggi's unheard of here.
  • Supper- refers to dinner here. To us sophisticated Malaysians, this refers to that special meal that comes after dinner, typically at an open-air roadside stall with plastic furniture and rodents scurrying around the longkangs. Ah, this is making me hungry.
  • Football- you probably already know this. Football here hasn't been the same since the Brits were vanquished from America. Someone apparently sat on a football and squished it to an oblong-shaped object. The main spectator sport here; source of multimillion dollar contracts and traumatic brain injury. No, what we know as football is referred to soccer here, often with a little snigger (blame it on American arrogance/ignorance, not knowing that football IS soccer in most of the world).
  • Hockey- don't even mention that we know this as a game that is played on a field by people running around in shorts and a stick, after a little hard ball. When people here say hockey, it's safe to assume that it's ICE hockey here. I don't think people here know the other version even exists.
  • Porridge- is called congee in Chinatown. Outside of Chinatown, it's an unknown food.
  • Panadol- you know, that stuff you take for a fever? Acetaminophen, or paracetamol? Well, better luck asking for Tylenol.
  • Singlet- called a wifebeater here. No, don't ask me why; I don't think I want to know.
Yup, I've been in North America since 1998, but truth be told, I sometimes feel like there so much more to know!

10 Comments:

Blogger Spinosum said...

Two thumbs up! (I wonder Americans say this too?)

8:55 PM  
Anonymous Ping said...

Pail (Msia) = Bucket (US)
Soft drink = Soda
Prawn = Shrimp
Lady fingers = Okra
Brinjal = Eggplant
Lorry = Truck
Slippers = Flip-flop/Sandals (slippers only for in-house wear in the US)
Soya = soy
Biscuit (salty) = Crackers
Biscuit (sweet) = Cookie
Spring onion = Green onion
Capsicum = Green pepper
Petrol = Gas

6:49 AM  
Anonymous Leena said...

Tomato Sauce (Msia) = Ketchup (US)
Chili Sauce = Hot Sauce
Chili = Chili Pepper
Chow Mein = Lo Mein
Hockey = Field Hockey
Mince meat = Ground meat
Bread(small round)=Bun/Dinner Roll
Jam = Preserves (with fruit pieces in it)
Jam = Jelly (clear or translucent fruit spread)
Yam = Taro

7:24 PM  
Anonymous Leena said...

Jelly (agar-agar) = Jello
Coriander = Cilantro

7:52 PM  
Blogger cooknengr said...

Yap, the second day I was in US, Edmond, Oklahoma to be exact. My roomie a Sabahan ordered "Teh" at Dairy Queen, I corrected him " ooi, in US, it Tea" with pride. Then I got my order of sausage and biscuit. It was quiet morning, just me and new roomate at DQ. The manager was kind enough to as us is every thing is okay. With pride, I complained " I ordered sausage but you guys gave me a ham burger pattie" The manager offered a refund I said it's okay.... Should see me red face when I found Jimmy Dean sausage at Safeway a few weeks later.

11:16 PM  
Anonymous vic said...

rubber = condom (US)
rubber = eraser (Msia)

I think this is important ahaha

11:17 PM  
Blogger cooknengr said...

Chilli = Mixture of baked bean, cummin,and ground beef. I was on a business trip a couple months ago, that was what an Indian co worker got when he ordered Chilli topping on his vegetarian pizza.

11:19 PM  
Blogger vagus said...

Haha, love it! Yes, Lorry is definitely one my wife never heard of before

5:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

queue up - line up

dustbin - trash can

lift - elevator

rubbish - trash

4:29 PM  
Blogger Jack Attack! said...

ok, wife beater is bc of the stereotype that only uneducated bums whp wear that shirt are mean to ther wife.....

10:52 AM  

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